Computing in Context

Dec 2020

This professor is so bad I had to write a review before the semester was up just to warn people. RUN. Reeve teaches the computational linguistics section. Reeve doesn't know how to teach. It might be that Zoom school makes it harder, but his level of incompetence (not explaining things, missing office hours, not uploading recordings, and so much more) tells me he had issues even before COVID. This class should be interesting, but it's marred by Reeve's bad teaching. Beware.

Jan 2020

Computing in Context, in case you are unfamiliar, is a class lectured primarily by Adam Cannon but has different sections, much like UWriting. There are three undergrad contexts available: Humanities, Finance, and Biology. I was under the naive and optimistic that, as a biochemistry major, the biology section was going to teach me useful skills and techniques in Python that I could use to both complete the class and do better as a scientist. Unfortunately, Pe'er is the lecturer for the biology context. I should have seen the first red flag for what it was: when Cannon informed us that there was only one recitation section (per week) and one TA for the bio section, while humanities and finance have at least 15 of each, due to the lack of people who choose to take the bio context. I thought it was because not many people in the class are interested in bio, but of course that doesn't make much sense considering CS is a STEM field. Instead, it turned out to be because Pe'er is undoubtedly, unequivocally, the worst lecturer I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing. Of the 6 or 7 lectures he gave throughout the semester, not one was well-thought out or lectured intuitively. He seemed to not know where his own PowerPoint was going, and was entirely too often surprised by what the next slide showed. He has a heavy accent, which in itself would not be a problem if he didn't have a voice that suggests he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. He truly sounds like his voice is actually two voices, screeching alongside one another a semitone apart. He sounds like he has strep throat, the kind where mucus gathers in the back of your throat, but he refuses to clear his throat. The cherry on top is that he can barely string together two words before adding an obnoxious EHM,,, URHM,,, every 3 or 4 seconds. All of this combined made him the most unbearable person in the world to listen to. Lastly, the material he lectured in class rarely if ever had anything to do with the three projects he assigned in the class. Each project was due two weeks after being assigned, meaning that we had two of Pe'er's lectures and two TA recitations before the project was due. I ended up going only to the recitations, because in lecture Pe'er would go on and on about techniques that were fascinating IF one were interested in his research. We spent maybe 4 lectures on DataFrames and Panda, and neither of those were used in the third project, which I ended up turning in a week after the deadline because I didn't know that we weren't supposed to use those techniques. Apparently, the TA used dictionaries instead, and never made that explicitly clear (he said it in what sounded like an off-handed comment during office hours), but those of us who started from scratch and followed his method finished the project successfully. Pe'er spent all of lecture talking about DNA sequencing and weird, opaque Python commands and it was the most boring class I ever had to sit through. Another thing: the projects were supposed to be relatively easy except for one; for example the Humanities context had the "hard" project on their second one, and the Finance on their third. For Bio, Pe'er made the first almost outrageously difficult, and the other two got exponentially harder.

Nov 2017

At the beginning of the semester Cannon will try to trick you into thinking that this class is suitable for people with no programming background. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT listen to him. The first portion of the class is doable, but the second half of the class isn't even covered in the textbook and is next to impossible. His tests are hard. I'm a history major, and I did the humanities track of the course because I thought it might give me some valuable skills. It did not. Instead I was left frustrated again and again and very turned off from computer science. Maybe he is good in Java, but I think he is a poor instructor in Python and should have spent more time and assignments explaining the concepts before throwing us in to very difficult homework sets to "apply our skills."

Dec 2016

Probably the best class I've taken at Columbia so far. Definitely not the easiest way to fulfill your science requirement for the Core, but I'd guess probably one of the most fulfilling/meaningful options available, especially if you're someone who has little to no experience programming (as was the case for me). His lectures are coherent and well-planned, the TA's are helpful and accommodating, and his lateness policy is really generous (he gives you 170 grace hours for the whole semester, which you can use to submit assignments after the due date without any penalty). Like I said, not immediately easy material for sure, but really worth the temporary struggle for what you get out of it. You'll learn a lot. This class blew my mind. Take it.